You can have hot fun in the summertime with your pets, but if the heat is on, your pets may potentially be in danger.
In general, dogs aren’t able to deal with heat as well as people are. So, if you are uncomfortable, it’s a good bet your dog is too. Many dogs wear fur coats year-round, and panting isn’t as efficient as perspiring as a cooling mechanism (though dogs do perspire some from their paw pads). Generally, the larger the dog, the more challenging to keep cool. Darker colored dogs heat up faster than lighter colored pups.
Here are a few tips for keeping your pets safe in summer:
Dogs Die in Hot Cars
Instances of dogs becoming ill and sometimes dying as a result of literally roasting in hot cars are avoidable. According to the AAA Chicago Motor Club, if it’s 85 degrees outdoors, even when the windows are open a crack, the dashboard can heat up to 170 degrees in less than 15 minutes.
Sadly, such tragedies still happen. On July 4, Maya Webb of Bettendorf, Iowa, went shopping inside a Joliet, Ill., furniture store. Unfortunately, she left her two pit bulls in the car. It was only 81 degrees outside, and she was barely gone for two hours — still, both dogs suffered heat stroke and died. Webb was charged with aggravated cruelty to animals, a Class 4 felony.
In many states and municipalities, leaving a pet in a hot car is against the law. So, calling the police may be an option. In some places, this law (like many animal cruelty laws) is more enforced than in others. Certainly, if the car is parked at a store — if more than a few minutes passes — fetching the owner can save a dog’s life.
Some dogs play fetch forever, just to please you or, well, they’re dogs and don’t always know when to stop. It’s your job to say enough is enough. Simply put, if your dog appears too hot, he probably is. Also, be sure to offer lots of cool water throughout your game.
For dogs who are out in the yard for any extended period of time — which is not the best idea in the first place — shade and water are absolutely necessary.
If you run with your dog — even a short distance — your best bet is either an early morning jog or hitting the track after sunset, when the temperatures aren’t as high and the sun isn’t shining. Be sure to bring water for your dog (and for you).
If it’s hotter than about 90 degrees, dogs with pushed-in noses, such as French bulldogs and pugs, probably shouldn’t go out (except to do their business and for the briefest of walks). The pushed-in nose (brachycephalic) dogs have a more challenging time breathing when it’s hot outside.
Cats in Trees
Where’s Sheriff Andy Taylor of Mayberry when you need him? In most places, if you phone the local sheriff or fire department to fetch a cat that is up a tree, you’ll only hear a bemused operator ask, “You’ve gotta be kidding?” If you manage to convince emergency personnel to respond, you’ll likely be charged a fee.
Be patient. Veterinary clinics rarely report treating cats who have fallen from trees. Emergency rooms, however, do treat people who have fallen trying to rescue feline friends. Entice kitty with a can of tuna left at lower branches or at the base of the tree; walk away, and wait for hunger to overcome fear.
While cats are generally pretty savvy about finding a cool place to escape the heat, sometimes those places are dangerous. Your cat is far safer indoors in the first place.
If your dog gets skunked….Step #1: Get a clothespin — that’s for your nose. Step #2: Scrub your pooch in a solution of one quart hydrogen peroxide, one-quarter cup baking soda and one teaspoon liquid dish soap. Step #3: Rinse. Step #4: Scrub the pet again — this time with a solution of half tomato juice and half water as needed. Step #5: Rinse. Step #6: Go to the movies while the odor subsides. Or go back to Step #2 and purchase an over-the-counter product available to help fight skunk stench.
Your dog isn’t dancing to act like Lady Gaga. Hot asphalt can literally scorch dog paws. To prevent fried paws, prevent asphalt — especially around midday.
If an adult isn’t there to supervise, the dog should wear a float jacket. For starters, not all dogs are adept at swimming; most bulldogs and Pekingese, for example, will sink like a rock. Even Labradors, Portuguese water dogs and Newfoundlands, etc., may impress in the pool, but not understand or be able to exit without assistance. Even Michael Phelps can’t swim forever. It’s not uncommon for expert swimming dogs to jump into a pool, but then drown because they’ve exhausted themselves attempting to get out.
Even homes with air conditioning can get pretty hot and, of course, not everyone has air conditioning. Refill water frequently so it’s cold. You can create cooling-off snacks, like “clucksicles” (stickless popsicles made with low-salt chicken bullion), or simply make low-salt beef- or chicken-flavored bullion ice cubes, pop one out, and serve for a cool treat. Many cats don’t drink enough, and encouraging them to do so is important. One trick is to add just a little bit of water to moist food for cats (a good idea year-round).
Heat stroke begins with excessive panting and difficulty breathing. The dog may lie down or seem generally confused. At this point, quickly offer water, and begin to cool the dog — place the dog in a tub or kid’s swimming pool filled with cool water (not ice-cold water). You may enhance cooling by placing the wet dog in front of an electric fan, but not for more than a few minutes. There’s a real danger of overdoing it, and inducing hypothermia, so be careful. Don’t be shy about contacting your veterinarian.
If symptoms don’t quickly dissipate, immediately contact your veterinarian or visit an emergency veterinary clinic. Worsening signs include: the tongue and mucous membranes appear bright red; the saliva becomes thick and the dog may vomit; the rectal temperature rises to 104° to 110°F. If any of these occur, it’s a matter of life and death.
Author, syndicated columnist, and radio host Steve Dale is one of America’s leading authorities on pets.